Five women and three men in business attire stand in a row against a green background

Left to right: Mark Prunell, MD; Rima Jubran, MD, MPH, MACM, Designated Institutional Official and Director of Graduate Medical Education at CHLA, William H. Hurt Chair in Medical Education in honor of Philip Rothman, MD; Roberta G. Williams, MD; Paul S. Viviano, CHLA President and CEO; Courtney MacMillan; Kelley Prunell; K.C. Hurt; Alan S. Wayne, MD, CHLA Pediatrician-in-Chief, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Pasadena Guild Chair

Hospital News

A Lasting Legacy for Kids

The donors behind the newest endowed chairs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are making an impact on care today—and for generations to come.

A “quiet force” who humbly declined the spotlight. Two legendary fundraising groups with histories that date back nearly a century. A neurosurgeon giving back to the hospital he has called home for nearly 50 years.

These are the generous donors who each recently established a very special investment in the future at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles: an endowed chair. Traditionally the highest accolade that clinicians and researchers can receive in academic medicine, an endowed chair is much more than a title.

“Faculty chair endowments provide the deep-rooted support that allows physician leaders to pursue groundbreaking research and new standards of care,” explains Alexandra Carter, Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “They play a fundamental role in promoting innovation that can improve and save children’s lives.”

Endowed chairs exist throughout CHLA, helping the hospital to recruit and retain the most accomplished physicians and scientists in pediatric medicine. But they would not be possible without the driving force behind them: philanthropy.

“These benefactors are shining examples of a passionate commitment to children,” says Paul S. Viviano, President and Chief Executive Officer of CHLA. “It is thanks to their support and partnership that chairholders across CHLA are able to advance the hospital’s pillars of leadership, mentorship and scientific discovery.”

“The impact these donors make is immeasurable,” Carter adds. “We are deeply grateful to each of them for their extraordinary vision in supporting care not only for today, but for generations to come.”

Recently, CHLA announced five new chairs that are supporting diverse areas of the hospital. Here’s a look at the donors behind them—and how they’re leaving a lasting legacy for children and families.

‘A quiet force’

If he were alive today, William H. “Bill” Hurt would have—very politely—declined to be part of this story.

“He would have likely said, with a wink and a thumbs up, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” says Kelley Purnell, one of Hurt’s three daughters. “He never sought recognition for his philanthropy. He was a quiet but mighty force.”

That force was felt across the city but particularly at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Hurt joined CHLA’s governing board in 1986 and served for more than 25 years on the Board of Directors and later, the CHLA Foundation Board of Trustees. A tireless advocate for the hospital, he invested generously (and anonymously) in numerous programs.

Four women with light skin tone and dressed in business attire smile for the camera
William H. Hurt's daughters and sister (in red). Left to right; Courtney MacMillan, Kelley Purnell, Lynne Bozanic and K.C. Hurt

CHLA’s graduate medical education efforts were especially near to his heart. More than 20 years ago, Hurt quietly committed to establishing an endowed chair to support education and training at CHLA, giving annual funding during his life.

After he passed away in 2021, at the age of 94, his estate provided the funds for the chair, and his family decided to honor Hurt by formally including his name in the chair’s title. The William H. Hurt Chair in Medical Education in honor of Philip Rothman, MD, was announced in November 2023 at a special CHLA event honoring Hurt’s legacy. The chair also pays tribute to Dr. Rothman, a highly regarded physician, mentor and former member of the CHLA Board of Trustees.

The inaugural chairholder is Rima Jubran, MD, MPH, MACM, who has had a 20-year career in the Cancer and Blood Disease Institute at CHLA. As Designated Institutional Official and Director of Graduate Medical Education at CHLA, Dr. Jubran oversees physician training programs throughout the hospital and previously directed the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Training Program. She specializes in treating children with challenging cancers such as retinoblastoma and has been the recipient of countless teaching and mentoring awards.

“Our dad was dedicated to graduate medical education,” Purnell says. “Our family is thrilled that this chair will help ensure that CHLA remains a top destination for tomorrow’s most promising pediatric specialists.”

A tribute to a CHLA pioneer

Robert Adler, MD, and Paul S. Viviano
Robert Adler, MD, MDEd, the inaugural holder of the Roberta G. Williams, MD, Chair in Pediatrics, and Paul S. Viviano, CHLA President and CEO

At the event honoring Hurt’s life, the WHH Foundation—established by William H. Hurt and now run by his children and grandchildren—also announced it would fund a second endowed chair: the Roberta G. Williams, MD, Chair in Pediatrics.

This chair, whose inaugural holder is Robert Adler, MD, MSEd, Vice Chair for Clinical, Department of Pediatrics, Physician Advisor, Provider Relations and Visitor Services, will support excellence in pediatric medicine at CHLA while recognizing Dr. Williams, who is retiring in June 2024 after a five-decade career.

“Our dad and Dr. Williams were thought partners for decades,” Purnell says. “They enjoyed a unique relationship, a special bond and a shared vision for a brighter future for children.”

Widely regarded as a pioneer in medicine, Dr. Williams trained as a pediatric cardiologist specializing in congenital heart disease. She joined CHLA in 2000, becoming the first woman to serve as Chair of Pediatrics and Vice President of Academic Affairs at CHLA.

Dr. Williams headed up the launch of the maternal-fetal medicine program, which provides a continuum of care beginning when a baby is diagnosed with a condition in utero to when they are born and after they leave the hospital. More recently, she created the Center for Healthy Adolescent Transition (CHAT), which is developing a new model of care to ensure a smooth transition to adult medicine for young adults with chronic diseases. Hurt was instrumental in the creation of CHAT.

“This initiative came out of conversations Bill and I had about how to create a better and safer transition from pediatric to adult medicine,” Dr. Williams says. “His deep commitment to investing in young people was inspiring, and I am incredibly honored to have my name on this chair.”

Dr. Adler, who was recently named the Roberta G. Williams, MD, Chair in Pediatrics, has been a leader in pediatric medicine for more than 50 years. He currently serves as Vice Chair for Clinical in the Department of Pediatrics at CHLA and is the Physician Advisor for both Provider Relations and Visitor Services at the hospital.

Sometimes called a “pediatrician’s pediatrician,” Dr. Adler has held many leadership positions during his decades long career at CHLA, including Chief Medical Director of the CHLA Care Network, Senior Vice Chair of Pediatrics, as well as acting head of the Divisions of Emergency Medicine, Genetics, Neurology and Critical Care Medicine. He also led the Graduate Medical Education Program for many years and was the first CHLA faculty member on the Residency Review Committee, which develops national training guidelines and accredits all pediatric training programs in the U.S.

“I had the privilege of getting to know Bill Hurt and seeing, first-hand, the impact his generosity has had on our medical staff and trainees through his exceptional generosity,” says Dr. Adler. “He was an inspiration to me personally, and I am honored to hold the chair recently established by the WHH Foundation to support excellence in pediatric medicine.”

A philanthropic powerhouse

Professional headshot of Ronald Ferdman, MD, MEd
Ronald Ferdman, MD, MEd

One of the latest endowed chairs at CHLA is funded by a group with a venerable history of supporting the hospital: the Pasadena Guild. Originally formed by just six hospital volunteers in 1947, the Pasadena Guild is one of the hospital’s many Associate & Affiliate groups, which have been raising vital funds and awareness for CHLA across Southern California for decades.

Although the A&As each began as small groups of women who raised money for supplies and basic needs, today they are a fundraising force—supporting multimillion dollar endowments for everything from neurology to pediatric surgery to cancer research and more.

The Pasadena Guild’s success is driven by the group’s two powerhouse fundraisers: its legendary Treasures & Trivia sale in the fall, and the June Ball, a Southland tradition since the 1960s.

In 2023, the group established the Pasadena Guild Chair in Clinical Immunology and Allergy, an investment that will help support state-of-the-art treatments for children with a range of conditions—from asthma to eczema to food allergies—and will help to expand research and medical education in this field.

“Asthma and allergies are common conditions that can significantly impact a child’s quality of life,” says Pasadena Guild President Cherie Harris. “We are thrilled to support CHLA’s visionary leadership in this area to improve care and outcomes for these children.”

The inaugural chairholder, Ronald Ferdman, MD, MEd, is Chief of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy and has a 37-year history at CHLA. A renowned clinical care leader and lecturer, Dr. Ferdman focuses on the treatment of severe childhood asthma and other allergic diseases, food and drug allergies and anaphylaxis, and primary immunodeficiency disorders, as well as resident medical education.

A neurosurgeon gives back

J. Gordon McComb, MD, and Susan Durham, MD, MS
J. Gordon McComb, MD, and Susan Durham, MD, MS, who holds the J. Gordon McComb Family Chair in Neurosurgery

J. Gordon McComb, MD, knows firsthand about the exceptional care that Children’s Hospital Los Angeles provides: He’s been helping to deliver that care for nearly 50 years—and continues to provide that world-class care today.

Dr. McComb, Chief Emeritus of Neurosurgery at CHLA, formerly served as Chief of Neurosurgery for 36 years and as a member of the Board of Directors. He is also the recipient of the Morris and Mary Press Humanism Award at CHLA. His leadership and mentorship helped establish CHLA as the leading pediatric neurosurgery center on the West Coast.

Now, he and his family are helping to ensure CHLA’s continued excellence in this highly specialized field through the J. Gordon McComb Family Chair in Neurosurgery.

“Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is very special to me,” Dr. McComb explains. “Since my residency, I have spent my entire professional career here, and it has been wonderful to see the progress we have made in treating neurosurgical conditions in children. Yet, there are still many more that need to be addressed.”

The chair is held by Susan Durham, MD, MS, Chief of Neurosurgery and co-Director of the Neurological Institute at CHLA. She also has a unique connection to Dr. McComb, having been one of his pediatric neurosurgery fellows at the hospital from 2001 to 2002. Prior to joining CHLA as Chief of Neurosurgery in 2020, Dr. Durham was at the University of Vermont Medical Center, where she became only the second woman neurosurgery chief in the country.

Dr. Durham’s academic interests include addressing gender-related issues in the neurosurgical workforce, particularly involving inequities in the practice and pay of female and underrepresented minority physicians, as well as defining social inequities in the care of children. Dr. Durham specializes in complex pediatric neurosurgical conditions such as craniosynostosis, pediatric brachial plexus and peripheral nerve disorders, and congenital brain and spine malformations. She has published more than 100 research articles, book chapters and abstracts.

“Substantial philanthropic contributions are essential for maintaining our high level of care and for advancing new therapies and surgical procedures,” Dr. McComb adds. “It gives me and my family much pride to support this investment in the future.”

The Godmothers

Douglas Vanderbilt, MD, MS
Douglas Vanderbilt, MD, MS, MBA

Since 1933, Las Madrinas has been raising funds for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and has established one of the newest endowed chairs at CHLA.

Las Madrinas—which in Spanish means “The Godmothers”—has supported several impactful areas of the hospital, including autism research, molecular genetics, experimental therapeutics for ophthalmology and the Las Madrinas Simulation Center.

The group’s latest endeavor: the Las Madrinas Endowment and Chair in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics.

“Las Madrinas is dedicated to a tradition of funding pediatric care and research for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” says the group’s President, Sheridan Link. “We are extremely excited to establish this chair at a time when the demand for developmental and behavioral health services for children has never been greater.”

Douglas Vanderbilt, MD, MS, MBA, Chief of the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics and co-Director of the Behavioral Health Institute at CHLA, is the inaugural chairholder. A leading expert in this field, Dr. Vanderbilt specializes in developmental and behavioral problems seen in high-risk infants and children with social interaction, attention, hyperactivity and learning challenges.

The chair will help elevate care for children and adolescents with a wide range of conditions, including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, developmental delays, depression, anxiety and more. It will also allow CHLA experts to enhance the learning environment for fellows and faculty, engage in leading-edge research networks and oversee one of the largest developmental-behavioral pediatrics training programs in the Western U.S.

Building healthier futures

Carter, CHLA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer, points out that these donors are just four examples of the many individuals and organizations that have generously given the gift of an endowed chair to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“The commitment and dedication of these philanthropic partners is truly inspiring,” she says. “Their enduring support makes it possible to fulfill our mission of creating hope and building healthier futures for children and families. We are tremendously thankful.”

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This article is featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Imagine magazine.